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Concert Reviews:
Extravaganza lets Queen's music rock again

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Friday, June 1, 2012

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DETROIT -- The Queen Extravaganza gives new meaning to the "Bohemian Rhapsody" lyric "is this the real life/is this just fantasy."

The tribute show, which made its U.S. debut Thursday night, May 31, at the Fox Theatre after three Canadian stops, is an engaging curio. Not only sanctioned by the Queen camp but produced and assembled by drummer Roger Taylor, it's obviously not a Queen concert, nor is it a theatrical experience like the "We Will Rock You Musical." Rather, the 32-song, two-act production is an homage by a crack, carefully arranged nine-piece cast with four lead vocalists; but everybody sang, allowing the Extravaganza crew to recreate choral opuses such as "March of the Black Queen," the two-part "In the Lap of the Gods" and, of course, "Bohemian Rhapsody."

And that was certainly enough to please the sparse but enthusiastic crowd of Queen enthusiasts at the Fox, who really hadn't ever heard these songs replicated with this level of accuracy because Queen itself, at four pieces, had to make plenty of concert comprises.

If there was a fault in the Extravaganza equation it's that the show wasn't extravagant enough. A big part of Queen's culture was bombast, both in its staging and in the prancing campiness of the late frontman Freddie Mercury. None of the Extravaganza's four singers tried to match the latter, but visually the two-hour and 15-minute show (plus 20 minute intermission) seemed lacking, particularly during a bare-bones first half that had some high points -- including a powerhouse "I Want It All" and Yvan Pedneault's rich "You Take My Breath Away" -- but didn't really come alive until three onstage video screens made their first appearance during the rock section of the deftly executed "Bohemian Rhapsody."

The second half, at least, was better, with more amped-up lighting effects and a mix of visual material, including some vintage Queen footage. That certainly kept the energy up as the ensemble romped through "One Vision," "It's a Kind of Magic," a dramatic "The Show Must Go On" and a full-bodied "Fat Bottomed Girls."

In lieu of the sights, the Extravaganza's greatest asset was its sounds, whether it was Brian May lookalike (right down to the curls and guitar) Tristan Avakian, Taylor-aping drummer Tyler Warren (who sang lead on "I'm in Love With My Car") or the singers, including under-utilized Jennifer Espinoza and Jeff Scott Soto, a rock 'n' roll journeyman who's logged time with Journey and who handled most of the metal-edged tunes such as "Tie Your Mother Down," "Dragon Attack" and "Stone Cold Crazy." Montrealeans Pedneault and Marc Martel held down the melodic end, but some of the show's best moments came when the quartet traded passed around the vocal ball during songs like "Bicycle Race," "Save Me," "Another One Bites the Dust" and "We Are the Champions."

Martel and Solo, meanwhile, ably pulled off the Mercury-David Bowie duet on "Under Pressure."

In that regard the Extravaganza has quite a bit going for it -- not to mention a formidable body of enduring music. And while you could never lose sight of the fact it wasn't the real thing, it was an adequate enough simulation to suspend disbelief and just let this permutation of Queen rock you.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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